Saturday, November 12, 2016

The Power of Death

WoW Chronicle outlines six primary forces that govern the Warcraft universe. Each has its opposite, and the six of them seem to exist in a kind of circular (or oval, in the illustration) system.

While each primal force and its opposite make sense in contrast with each other, some neighbors can be a little odd. Going counter-clockwise on the Chronicle chart, you have the Light, with its affiliated Holy magic, then Nature, with its affiliated Life magic. Following that is Order, with Arcane magic.

These three seem to embody the "good" forces, but what's interesting is that they aren't the top three on the chart, but rather the top one and then the upper left and lower left.

Circling around, the bottom is Shadow/Void, with its affiliated magic of the same name. The next is Death, with Necromancy as its affiliated form of magic. Finally, in the upper right, there is Chaos, with the affiliated Fel magic.

It isn't exactly clear what meaning there is behind certain forces being next to each other on the chart - one could imagine popping it out into three dimensions and thus having each force equidistant from all the other forces other than its opposite. But if we assume that this is truly a cycle and not just a flattened cube-like shape, there are some surprising implications - like the notion that Holy Magic is more closely related to Fel magic than to Arcane, and vice versa for Shadow.

But it also introduces an interesting new wrinkle - that Necromancy is just as primal a form of magic as Fel, Shadow, or Arcane.

Oddly enough, when Trial of the Crusader came out, players were surprised that the Alliance version of the Warlock tier 9 set was called "Kel'thuzad's Raiment." The Horde version was named after Gul'dan, who of course embodies the classic Warlock archetype. But Kel'thuzad? He wasn't using Fel magic. If anything, he was using Arcane, and in fact a lot of his WCIII spells became Mage spells in WoW. The argument, then, was that if Kel'thuzad was any existing WoW class, he was a Mage.

Of course, the reality is that he was neither - he was a Necromancer, which is something that isn't exactly represented in-game. Even Necrolites of the Old Horde were really just Affliction Warlocks, still using Fel magic.

But given that Necromancy is inherently its own form of magic, it does raise some interesting questions about the most powerful necromancer in the Warcraft Universe - the Lich King.

I've thought (and written) about this before, but I was happy to see in a recent Blizzard Watch podcast that one of their commentators agreed that we could use a slight retcon on the origins of the Lich King.

As it stands, all we have for an origin of the Lich King is that Kil'jaeden captured the Orc Shaman (though if he was anything like his Draenor B equivalent, he was more of a Shadow Priest) Ner'zhul, stripped the orc's flesh away and then sealed his spirit within a suit of black armor.

This first Lich King was then sealed in an ice-like crystal that became the Frozen Throne, and later, Arthas Menethil (having already lost his soul to Frostmourne - also created by Kil'jaeden) would put on that set of armor to merge with the Lich King - when we face him in Wrath, Arthas is the dominant personality within the Lich King entity. When Arthas is killed, Bolvar Fordragon takes on the helmet (which seems to be the real active ingredient) and becomes the third Lich King, using his strength of will to draw back the Scourge and avoid that whole zombie apocalypse that was threatening all life.

The thing is:

Kil'jaeden is a demon, and a master of Fel magic. Now, that's not to say he can't dabble in other stuff - we see tons of Legion-affiliated demons using Shadow magic, even though in theory the whole point of the Burning Legion is to destroy anything that might be corrupted by the Void. So the current canon is simply that Kil'jaeden - a masterful warlock and one of the two most powerful demons in the universe (if we don't count Sargeras as a demon) - basically dabbled a bit in Necromancy to create the Lich King.

Or alternatively, Kil'jaeden simply knew about the forbidden Shadowmoon magics that the clan had learned from the darkened Naaru K'ara, which in Warlords of Draenor the alternate Ner'zhul used to raise the dead in service of the Iron Horde.

But again, Ner'zhul was using Void Magic. Kil'jaeden was using Fel magic. Neither of these guys were really true necromancers.

Again, you could explain this away as saying that these primordial forces aren't so distinct as they might first appear - perhaps Necromancy can even be accomplished simply by blending Fel and Shadow magic (it is right between them on the chart.)

But might it not then be more interesting if, instead, the Lich King pre-dates Ner'zhul?

In a previous post, I suggested that the Shadowlands might have originally belonged to Yogg-Saron, who styles himself the God of Death.

But Yogg-Saron, while ancient, is still an interloper on Azeroth. While there's not a lot of history known before the coming of the Old Gods (basically: Elementals fought all the time,) one wonders if perhaps the Emerald Dream and the Shadowlands existed prior to that time.

Chronicle is intentionally ambiguous about whether the Emerald Dream was created by Freya or if she merely found a way in, but if we go with the latter hypothesis and suggest that the Shadowlands, as the Dream's opposite number, also existed prior to Titanic or Old God interference, then perhaps there was some other entity, analogous to the Wild Gods, that ruled over that plane.

The retcon suggested is that Kil'jaeden did not create the Lich King, but rather bound the entity to a physical frame that could be manipulated and used.

The things is: the Lich King defeats the Legion. Not in a permanent way, but he wrests himself free. First he sends Arthas to help Illidan beat Tichondrius and then severs all ties with the Legion, successfully defeating the Illidari (who were coerced by the Legion to fight the Scourge.)

With the Legion likely to suffer a long-term if not permanent defeat in this expansion, it wouldn't hurt for Blizzard to start elaborating on potential future threats. We know that the Old Gods have bosses writing their checks, but given how iconic the Scourge are, it wouldn't hurt for them to come up with a new angle on the threat of the Undead.

A lot of the path has already been laid out, but it may require a little bit of lore tweaking in order to get it to work.

No comments:

Post a Comment